ARLINGTON — When Jersey Heiss was a freshman on the Arlington High School girls soccer team, the rebuilding Eagles scored just nine goals in 16 games.
Two years later, Heiss matched the 2017 team’s goal total all by herself — in the first week of the season.
Heiss opened her junior campaign with nine goals over her first three games, including a four-goal performance in an 8-0 victory over Mount Vernon.
“I wasn’t really coming into the season expecting it to happen,” she said. “It was kind of a surprise.”
Heiss continued to score in bunches, delivering eight multi-goal performances on her way to a program-record 30 goals to go along with six assists.
For her record-breaking season, Heiss is The Herald’s 2019 Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“On the field, she’s just a dangerous player who intimidates other teams because she’s so explosive and so strong. One of the strongest girls striking the ball that I’ve had,” said Arlington coach Nathan Davis, who just completed his 22nd year as head coach of the Eagles. “She doesn’t miss-hit balls a lot. … Her strength is she got so many balls on frame, so many shots on frame. When she hits it, it’s a hard ball for keepers to save.”
Heiss helped lead a vastly improved Arlington offense. The Eagles scored 59 goals this season — a 50-goal increase from 2017 — and Heiss had a foot in 61% of her team’s scores.
A performance that stuck out to both Heiss and Davis was her effort against Oak Harbor in a Class 3A Northwest District play-in game. The Eagles were looking to get past the district play-in round for the first time since 2016 and had lost to the Wildcats, 2-1, a week early in a game in which Heiss was held scoreless. This time, she scored three times and assisted on her team’s other goal in a 4-1 win.
That also was the night Heiss set the program record for goals scored in a season. Heiss was tied for the record at 25 coming into the game and hadn’t scored in two straight contests.
“It was just exciting to finally feel like myself again and to win that game and get us in to districts,” she said.
Heiss first established herself as an offensive weapon her sophomore year. She scored 12 goals in 2018 and was a first-team All-Wesco 3A/2A selection. But her 30-goal outburst wasn’t something that was expected.
“You never had a kid come in and go, ‘Oh, she’s gonna score 30,’” Davis said. “I’ve coached some pretty (good players). I coached Kayla Burt back in the day and Kayla was an amazing basketball player and an amazing soccer player, and she had like 22 (goals) in a year and I thought, ‘Oh, wow! That’s incredible!’ And then, this year it didn’t seem like it was that many, then next thing you know I was like, ‘Dude, she’s got a lot of goals.’”
Heiss credited her high-scoring season to a more poised demeanor on the field, improvement in her technical skills and becoming better at reading where to make runs on the field. A lot of that work came with her club team, Washington Rush Premier.
“I worked really, really hard over the summer because (coach) Davis told me there was a lot of stuff I needed to work on,” Heiss said, “and I just kind of like was quiet at club and I was just trying to work on it as best as I could because I enjoy high school a lot and I wanted to have a really good season.”
Heiss will be back next fall to lead an Eagles team that’s set to return nine seniors and has high expectations after posting its first winning season since 2016.
“I’m really, really excited for next season,” Heiss said. “My big goal for next season is to go to state because that’s what I was hoping for this year.”
Said Davis: “(Experience) just makes a huge difference in high school sports. Those senior players … they know what to do. Experience does matter, and our league’s good enough that if you lose focus in one game, anybody can beat you.
“I’m excited. I did lose four seniors, three starters, so we’re hoping to get some young kids that can step in. But I have an awesome junior class. I really do. We return eight starters, so I have pretty high expectations for them.”
Having Heiss back to lead an experienced offense certainly will be a big factor in reaching those expectations.
“The hardest thing in soccer is to score goals, so if you have a goal scorer, it makes you a way better coach all the sudden,” Davis said. “It makes your team better because you get a few goals on the board. That’s the part that’s huge for the team. Anytime you get a ball in the back of the net, it’s important.”